Bipolar Disorder and Entrepreneurship

Goals

To inform a larger advocacy effort around neurodiversity by providing background information on the experience and success of entrepreneurs with bipolar disorder, including how leaders with bipolar disorder accommodate this condition in the workplace, some notable entrepreneurs with this diagnosis, any commonalities or themes in the types of businesses started by those with bipolar disorder and examples of companies in the disability advocacy space that have bipolar founders. In parallel, to identify similar information about entrepreneurs who are neurodivergent.

Early Findings

Availability of Information

  • The bulk of this research period was used to explore and confirm the availability of the requested information.
  • An initial scan of our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources was unable to find any specific research reports that address the stated goals of this research.
  • However, a review of publicly available literature indicated that relevant information exists on the subject of entrepreneurs with bipolar disorder, as well as leaders who are neurodivergent.

Accommodating Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace

  • Notably, media sources such as Entrepreneur have reported that there are key parallels between the typical entrepreneurial experience and the experience of having bipolar disorder.
  • Similarly, The Sydney Morning Herald reported in July 2018 that there are four key personality traits that those with bipolar disorder share with entrepreneurs, adding that "being bipolar can be an entrepreneurial strength."
  • Most recently in February 2020, BPHope also reported that the "personality traits of entrepreneurs and those with bipolar frequently overlap," while outlining recommendations for accommodating this condition in the workplace.

Entrepreneurs with Bipolar Disorder

  • According to research by the University of California, the majority of entrepreneurs are directly impacted by mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
  • Specifically, 49% of entrepreneurs report dealing with at least one mental illness, while 72% of entrepreneurs are "directly or indirectly" impacted by mental health conditions through their personal experience or experiences with family members.
  • Moreover, Forbes reported in May 2019 that entrepreneurs are ten times more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder.
  • Perhaps one of the most notable among these is Elon Musk, who has publicly reported suffering from bipolar disorder.
  • Another prominent example of an entrepreneur with bipolar disorder is Kayak founder Paul English.

Bipolar Leaders of Advocacy Organizations

  • While there appears to be less, publicly available information on bipolar leaders of advocacy organizations, there are notable examples of prominent community members with bipolar disorder partnering on such causes.
  • For example, Demi Lovato, who has publicly shared information about her bipolar condition, has partnered with six "leading mental health advocacy organizations" on the Be Vocal campaign.

Types of Businesses with Bipolar Founders

  • Pre-compiled information on the types of businesses/industries that most commonly have bipolar founders appears to be more limited.
  • However, the research team may be able to provide insight into this subject by further exploring areas where bipolar entrepreneurs are most successful or most prominent.

Neurodivergent Entrepreneurs

  • Initial research similarly suggests that there is relevant, publicly available information on the subject of neurodivergent entrepreneurs.
  • For example, Emerge recently published its listing of the "Top 50 Influential Neurodivergent Women 2019," which includes neurodivergent entrepreneur and advocacy leader Poppy Ellis Logan.
  • Similarly, Neurodiversity Network recently published its listing of "Neurodivergent Advocates & Leaders."
  • Perhaps most notably, an incubator specifically targeting neurodivergent entrepreneurs recently launched in Australia.

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